The Amazing Mountain Journey to Luang Prabang
The road journey from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang is one of the most spectacular journeys in Asia. Among aficionados of two-wheeled travel whether self-propelled (and you would have to be a serious cyclist to undertake it) or on a motorcycle, Rte. 13 is famous for its spectacular winding roads and mountain views of simply unbelievable beauty. You start by driving along the banks of the Nam Song River. The jagged karst formations you see in Vang Vieng continue. This area is peppered with caves and if you have time you can stop off and explore. Bear in mind that you still have 250km (155 miles) of winding roads to go. The elevation starts to get higher and the limestone outcrops get bigger.
Once past the town of Kasi they are much bigger indeed, jungled walls rising vertically from the valley like a giant tidal wave of solid rock. As you wind your way up to Poukhoun this dramatic scenery is laid out below you: a huge green carpet of natural peaks, abrupt precipices, and sharp ridges wreathed with wisps of cloud, and lit by intense sunshine. Just before Poukhoun itself a viewing platform has been constructed, and it is a great place to get an early lunch and take in this natural amphitheater. Once past Poukhoun the mountain scenery starts to change.
Sharp and jagged limestone gives way to huge, rounded mountains stretching far into the distance. You make your way along roads cut into the hillside, each turn revealing yet another astounding view. The whole route is lined with small villages of varying ethnicity where hundreds of children wave maniacally, which you are free to reciprocate if it’s safe. In the late afternoon you slowly start to descend into the mountain panorama itself until you reach the valley floor. Again a straight wooded road takes you along the banks of the Nam Khan River and into Luang Prabang.